The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) has a rich history in the Milwaukee area. There are over 8,000 scouts in Kenosha, Milwaukee, and Racine counties, and they do lots of merit-badge earning and community service. When the BSA declared bankruptcy earlier this year, many people feared that the organization would soon cease to exist. Others suggested the bankruptcy was allowing the organization to shirk responsibility for the harm it has caused.
The reality is the bankruptcy is probably a boon to the struggling organization and is a way for the BSA to finally take responsibility for its actions instead of sweeping them under the rug.
What Led to the BSA’s Bankruptcy?
The BSA has been in decline for decades. Its membership peaked in the early 1970s. In recent years, it has tried to boost membership by allowing girls and openly LGBTQ scouts to join its ranks. These changes have helped a little bit, but they also caused the Mormon church to pull its support from the organization and start a competing group.
Bankruptcy will allow the organization to restructure and move forward with a new vision for the future. What this means for local councils is unclear. It is possible that the BSA will consolidate councils, lay off staff, and sell off some of its campgrounds. We’ll have to wait and see what happens.
Hopefully, the organization will also take its time in bankruptcy to do some soul-searching. Almost since its founding, over 100 years ago, BSA knew it was a magnet for sexual predators looking for easy access to young boys. Instead of calling attention to the problem and attempting to do something about it, the BSA kept secret files on volunteers it knew or suspected were abusing scouts. They rarely shared any of the information they had with the police.
One of the only things BSA did to try and curb abuse was ban LGBTQ scouts and volunteers. It only recently acknowledged that being queer does not make you a sexual predator.
Now, the day of reckoning has come. The BSA was forced to file for bankruptcy because it was being hit with so many lawsuits by abused scouts. If the organization continued to fight each of these cases individually, it would be bled dry.
Why This Matters
Filing for bankruptcy will allow the organization to address the claims against it head-on. Other organizations in similar circumstances have set aside pots of money that victims can make claims against under the supervision of the bankruptcy court. The victims will have a quick and easy way to make a claim for compensation, and the organization will take a hit, but be able to regroup.
It is important to note that if this is indeed what happens, victims will only have this one shot at justice. The bankruptcy takes all potential and outstanding claims and rolls them into one. This is why some people claim BSA is shirking its responsibility. This is a valid concern, but it is also likely that many abused scouts would not make any claim at all if the bankruptcy did not happen. They would either suffer in silence because bringing your own individual lawsuit is quite the undertaking. Or they would file suit too late, and the organization would be out of money and closed down by the time their lawsuit was tried to a verdict.
If you have questions about the Boy Scout Bankruptcy, or how bankruptcy impacts liability, let’s talk. Contact us today to schedule an initial consultation.